§ MR. OSBORNE
Sir, perhaps the urgency of the case will form my apology for not having given Notice to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary of the Question I am about to put. I have to ask the right hon. Gentleman, Whether be will be kind enough to state to the 1386 House, with reference to the meeting proposed to have been held in Hyde Park last evening, what were the Instructions given by the Home Office to Sir Richard Mayne?
§ MR. AYRTON
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the Question which has just been put I should like to address to him another, and as it may lead to some observations, it may be convenient that I should conclude with a Motion for the adjournment of the House. My hon. Friend behind me has asked a very simple Question, which I think has been answered by anticipation. But there are other questions upon which I confess I should like to have some information. Every one must regret that the people of the metropolis should have been brought in the way they have been face to face with the authorities, and still more, as the result of that, that there should have been any resort to force on the one side or the other. But one cannot help feeling that this unfortunate state of things has arisen from causes which might have been entirely prevented. Undoubtedly it came to the notice of the Government some time ago that a certain portion of the community was under the impression that they had a right to assemble together in Hyde Park for the purpose of considering political questions, and expressing their opinions thereon. With regard to the question of right, I am bound to say that circumstances have occurred in recent times which have tended very much to encourage this notion on the part of the people; and I allude more particularly to the disposition that has been evinced in somewhat recent times on the part of other sections of society to appropriate the Parks in a specific manner to their own gratification and enjoyment. I myself, as these occurrences have arisen, have expressed my strong opinion against such pretensions, because I have always felt that if any section of the community, however elevated in rank and influential in station, though extremely few in number, took it upon themselves to exercise influence over the Government to induce it to appropriate portions of the Park specifically for their gratification and enjoyment, it must necessarily give rise to an impression in the minds of the people that they in their turn would have the right whenever the occasion arose to appropriate some portion of the Parks in a manner which might be convenient to themselves. I cannot help recollecting that not long ago there was a desire on the part of a very small portion of the 1387 community that instead of riding on the ordinary road they should have a very soft road to ride upon, or, it may be, to fall upon, as they went through St. James' Park; and thereupon the railings of the park were pushed back, and a considerable portion of the Park was appropriated for the exclusive benefit and gratification of that particular section. ["Oh, oh!" I am obliged to hon. Gentlemen opposite for crying "Oh, oh!" because they evidently begin to appreciate the truth of my observations. When I expressed myself in general terms hon. Gentlemen did not seem to sufficiently appreciate my remark, and I was in doubt whether I should give any illustration, but I am glad I have done so, because it is quite obvious that my remarks have penetrated their minds. But that was not the only occasion on which these things have been done. I recollect not long ago those who are responsible for the local government of the metropolis, and also for its taxation, being very much pressed by a fashionable part of society who inhabit the parish of St. George's, Hanover Square, to improve the means of communication between one part of the parish and another. It was suggested to those then in authority that there was an obvious means of improving that communication, because there already existed a thoroughfare between Hyde Park Corner and Park Lane, and there was, therefore, a very simple mode of proceeding by making thoroughfare available to those who desired to use it. They were told by the gentlemen in authority that that particular portion of the Park was a lounge for a very refined section of society, and that it would be quite impossible to appropriate such a space for the convenience of the public at large. It may seem a very simple thing for people who have hours to while away in carriages to appropriate to themselves a particular portion of the Park. Nevertheless, that again was a specific appropriation of a character entirely exclusive. ["No, no!"] Undoubtedly Gentlemen opposite will say it was not exclusive, because anybody who has an hour or two to while away in a carriage, can participate in the enjoyment. That appears to be very much like the old answer that anybody may go into the London Tavern and eat turtle soup if he desires it; but the qualification is limited and the appropriation exclusive. Whilst the public at large have; therefore, insuperable difficulties placed in their way in the legitimate use 1388 of these Parks, we cannot help remembering these things. Again, when an inconvenience was experienced in passing between the Clubs and Belgravia, it was suggested that a very easy remedy could be found by going through the gates of St. James' Palace at one side and the gates at Buckingham Palace at another, and no obstacle was encountered in arranging that matter when the fashionable part of society was concerned. It may be thought that the people of this metropolis are so ignorant or so stupid that they cannot observe what is going on. But, in point of fact, they do observe it, and when they find that the hearth of the poor man is to be taxed to the extent of £100,000 to meet the convenience of fashionable folks, it is a matter which does penetrate the mind of every thoughtful member of society. The House will appreciate what the value of that money is when I tell them that the Metropolitan Board of Works has expended only £110,000 for the purchase of the two Parks for the people, one on the south and the other on the north side of the metropolis. I have stated enough to show the exclusive character of these appropriations, and that if one section of society makes these exclusive appropriations it is natural that it should become imprinted on the minds of the other section of the community that they are at liberty to do likewise. But I can refer to even a stronger case. When the Civil Service desired to appropriate a portion of a Park for the benefit of a club, that concession was granted in spite of the remonstrances that were made. It is impossible to divest the minds of the people of the impression that they in their turn ought to have their share of these appropriations; and I mention these things because, four years ago, the matter was mooted to me and to other metropolitan Members, and on that occasion, after going into the matter calmly, we succeeded in satisfying those who raised the question that on the point of right there was no special right to make these appropriations for the exclusive benefit of particular portions of society. But these efforts are naturally frustrated when the unfortunate examples to which I have referred, and others which I might mention, are set, leading the people astray in their notions as to the proper appropriation of this public property. The result is that the people are deeply impressed with the idea that they have a right to use this 1389 public property for their own particular purposes and objects. Now, what was the duty of the Government? I do not allude particularly to the right hon. Gentlemen who now happen to occupy the opposite Benches, but what was the duty of any Government in these circumstances? It appears to me that when a claim of right is put forward in respect to these Parks the best way of meeting it is by issuing a well-considered and temperate proclamation, explaining clearly the exact rights the people possess; and I have no doubt if the people had been met in that way, in a spirit of proper conciliation—if the question of right had been disposed of as a question of right—we should not have had the events occur which did occur last night. But instead of this a notification was placed on the gates of the Park of a character which I think was an entire mistake, to say the least of it. I am sorry I have not a copy of the document with me, I had meant to read it more carefully, but I was unable to find any trace of it on the gates of the Park. Still, my recollection of it is that it was one of certainly an extremely disagreeable description, because it suggested that the meeting proposed to be held was one calculated to lead to a disturbance and a breach of the peace. If I am right in that, I think the claim on the part of the people was met by what I can only denounce as a false suggestion. I do not think there is any one in this House weak enough to believe that a meeting of 3,000 or 4,000 people in the Park to pass resolutions on the subject of Reform is a proceeding likely to lead to violence and a breach of the law. For my part I should be sorry to see that hon. Member, but I cannot imagine any such person exists in this House; and I cannot suppose that a person of the lively intelligence of Sir Richard Mayne could really believe what he wrote when he penned that notification. The people having perfect confidence in their own tranquillity, and in their power of carrying through a public meeting of which they had some experience, seeing this statement, at once regarded it as a false suggestion intended to cover an improper proceeding, and when once their minds became impressed with that idea they were sure to regard the acts of the Government as an appeal to might rather than right. Now, nothing can be more disastrous than that the Government of this country should so far forget its constitutional basis as ever to 1390 appeal to force in order to meet a claim supposed to be founded on a sense of right. We are not governed by force but by respect for the law. No army in this country ought to be used as an agent of Government. We solemnly pass every year a declaration to that effect; and I deny that it is any part of the Constitution to govern on the part of the Crown by force. This country can only be governed in accordance with the national sense of right and justice. To appeal to force, and not to have considered and examined this question—not to have met the people on the ground of right—appears to me a most deplorable error; and to have led very much to the consequences that have ensued. Therefore, I do hope that the Government will take an early opportunity of issuing a proper notification, in which they will explain the nature of this question, and will not persist in the course (which may be most disastrous) of endeavouring to keep the people in order by the police on the one hand and the soldiers on the other. If the time has not already come, it will very soon, when Government will have to learn that its authority does not and cannot depend upon military force. It is true that in times past an army composed of all the scum and ruffianism of the country was an instrument in the hands of a Minister, be he good or evil, or his purposes right or wrong, to inflict violence on the people. But our army is somewhat improved, although not so much as we desire, judging from the Bill we recently passed. Still it is somewhat improved, and the more it improves the less it will be an instrument in the hands of the Government, and the more it will become an arbiter between the Government on the one side and the people on the other. It is a very dangerous doctrine for the Government to act upon, that the army is a machine to be used against the people. I hope, therefore, instead of attempting to keep 500,000 adult people—the number comprised in the metropolis—in order by the physical power at their disposal, the Government will consider the expediency of appealing more to the moral influence of the community, for I am quite certain this is the only means by which order can be preserved in this metropolis. I think we have had abundant evidence that there is no people in the world more ready to recognize the principles of order than the people of this metropolis. In point of fact, 1391 if that was not the case, the metropolis would be at their disposal. I, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary if he will be good enough to lay upon the table the notification issued by Sir Richard Mayne; and I wish also to inquire what steps he has taken for disabusing the minds of the people of the erroneous impression that they have a right to use the Park for their own purposes, and also what steps he has taken for preserving the peace of the metropolis?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Ayrton.)
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, in replying to the Questions which have been put to me, I think I should not at all exercise a wise discretion by following the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in some of the remarks he has made to the House. At the commencement of his speech, he drew a contrast between different classes of society, and he tried to make out and represent to the House, and through the House to represent to the country, that the law was administered to those whom he calls the higher and richer classes, in a different manner from that in which it is administered to the humbler orders. Nothing of that kind, I am sure, was ever contained in any notice issued with my sanction, and nothing of that kind, I am equally sure, was ever present, or ever will be present, to the mind of any Member of the Government. I believe that all classes of society should be treated alike in the matter which is now before us, and it was because it was founded on the principle of securing to all classes of society the benefit—and the full benefit—for which the Parks are appropriated, that the notice which has been referred to was issued. The hon. Gentleman has found fault with that notice as being one which contained "a false suggestion," and he has followed that up by remarks which seemed to be responded to by partial cheers from his own side of the House as if the matter of right to which the hon. Gentlemen has referred had not been perfectly well known to the House and to the country by proceedings which have before taken place in reference to the Parks, but which the hon. Gentleman has thought it convenient to forget. In the year 1855 there was a great stir in this metropolis about a Bill brought forward by a noble Lord (Lord Richard Grosvenor) now a Member of the House of Peers respecting Sunday trading. At that time great meet- 1392 ings were held in Hyde Park, great disturbances took place, and the Government of the day—not a Government composed of my Friends sitting near me, but a Government consisting of Gentlemen now sitting on the other side of the House—did, in consequence of those meetings, appoint a Commission to inquire into the proceedings, into the conduct of the police, and into the rights which were then to a certain extent claimed on the part of the public. I would recommend the hon. Gentleman to read the Report of that Commission, as he seemed to put it to the House as if this was a question entirely new, and as if the present Government were commencing a course of conduct totally unknown to the House and to the country. The Commission consisted of Mr. James Stuart Wortley, Mr. Baynes Armstrong, and Mr. Gilbert Henderson, who went into a full investigation of the subject, and in their Report I find the following paragraphs:—After the proceedings in Hyde Park on Sunday, the 24th of June, it was fit and proper that measures should be taken to secure to all classes the undisturbed exercise of their right to ride or drive in the Park. The arrangements for this purpose seem to have devolved on the First Commissioner, Sir Richard Mayne, according to the distribution of duty sanctioned by the Secretary of State for the Home Department.With the prospect of a recurrence on the 1st of July of the tumults of the 24th of June, it was right to issue some warning to the public, and to apprise the unwary that such proceedings were illegal and would be checked by the police. The police notice which was advertised, and also printed and placarded, had in view those objects, and also, as we understand it, the prevention of a public meeting in the Park, at which, as it was anticipated, the Sunday Trading Bill would be discussed, and the assembled multitude addressed by speakers, with the usual forms.An attempt to hold such a meeting had been foiled by the police on the 24th of June. It seems to us that meetings of this nature might properly be interdicted and suppressed, as novel, and not sanctioned by usage or the regulations of Hyde Park. To make Hyde Park an arena for the discussion of popular and exciting topics would be inconsistent with the chief purposes for which it is thrown open to and used by the public. Whether the holding any such meeting was contemplated it is difficult to say, but it is certain that the police notice was understood by many, not as prohibiting a meeting in this limited sense, but as interdicting and prohibiting any meeting or assembly of large numbers of persons in Hyde Park on the 1st of July.This construction induced many to go to the Park to assert a right which they imagined to be impugned by the notice of the Police Commissioners. The language of the notice, and especially the use of the term 'meeting' in a sense not clearly defined, seems to have given some ground for this construction. The notice, however, produced a good effect by inducing many to 1393 abstain from going to the Park in carriages or on horseback. Report signed by "JAMES STUART WORTLEY, "ROBERT BAYNES ARMSTRONG, "GILBERT HENDERSON.Such was the Report of the Royal Commissioners, who inquired into similar proceedings to those which occurred last night. The following year another question was raised—namely, whether bands of music and preaching would be allowed in Regent's Park and one or two other Parks. On that occasion the opinion was taken of the Law Officers of the Crown, which opinion I hold in my hand. These Law Officers were Sir Alexander Cockburn, the present Lord Chief Justice, Sir Richard Bethell, now Lord Westbury, and Mr. Wills, an able lawyer. As the foundation for that opinion three Questions were put, which I will take the liberty of reading:—1. Is there any authority to close the gates of the enclosures, and exclude the public altogether during the day?2. The gates of the enclosures being open, is there any authority to prevent the ingress of persons to the enclosures, those persons conducting themselves properly and orderly in their attempt to obtain ingress?3. Supposing persons to have entered and to preach, or play upon musical instruments, or to sing, does any authority exist to turn persons so preaching, or playing or singing, out of the Parks, supposing they do not obstruct a thoroughfare or cause a disturbance? And, if so, "You are particularly requested to state what is the nature of the authority, and how it is derived.The following is the Opinion which was given:—1. We think that there is a right in point of law to close the gates and exclude the public from the Parks.2. We think that the gates being open there is a right on the part of the Crown to exclude persons attempting to gain admission; but we do not think this right should be exercised against particular individuals unless in case of previous misconduct.3. If persons who have entered commence to preach or play they cannot be turned out without proper notice to them that the permission or licence of the Crown to the public to enjoy the Park is conditional only, and does not apply to persons who so conduct themselves, and the best way of giving such notice is by posting it up at the entrances of the Parks.The authority to close and to exclude the public from the Parks is that which every landowner has to prevent the public from trespassing on his lands; for we are of opinion that the public have not acquired any legal right to use the Parks by reason of the continued user under the licence and by favour of the Crown.(Signed), "A. E. COCKBURN, "RICHARD BETHELL. "W. H. WILLS.1394 With regard to the matter of right, I conceive that it is perfectly clear that the opinion given by these Law Officers is the true opinion, on which any person filling the situation I have the honour to hold is required to act. As to the mode in which he should act, and the discretion to be exercised, I frankly and freely admit that any advice must be given subject to the responsibility which the Minister owes to Parliament. But I beg the hon. Gentleman to believe that instead of the notice to which he referred being issued on the grounds he supposes, it was issued simply and solely on the ground which I have already stated — that the Parks being appropriated by the Crown for the benefit of all classes of the public, that object ought not to be interfered with — as all my predecessors have held — by any meeting which was likely to create political excitement or to cause religious agitation, and thereby to interfere with the recreation of the people. Now, for myself, I can truly say, that I consider the holding of any meetings in the Parks for political demonstration or religious agitation so entirely opposed to the purpose for which those Parks are open to the public, that, until corrected by this House and Parliament, I must take leave to think that we are bound to exclude such meetings from the Parks. ["No, no!"] I hear some hon. Gentleman opposite say "No!" If he really holds any such opinion I beg him to bring the question distinctly before the House, and let it be discussed temperately and calmly. I have given my reasons why I think the line ought to be drawn between meetings of this description and the free admission to the Parks of all Her Majesty's subjects for the purposes of enjoyment and recreation. I believe that distinction to be sound, and as I said before, until it shall be directed otherwise by Parliament, I shall certainly feel it my duty to act upon it. But in so acting, let it not be supposed that I do so in the spirit so unjustly imputed to me by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that it is not in my character, and I am sure that it is not in my disposition, needlessly to employ any coercive authority. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that it is to public opinion—to moral influence—that every Government must submit. Most cordially do I agree in that sentiment; and by no other test do I wish to be tried than by appealing to rational, right-minded, public opinion — to that moral 1395 influence which I trust will always exercise its weight over every person who inhabits this free country. As for force, I repudiate it altogether; force I would never call in for any purpose except to secure obedience to the law: but if the law is likely to be violated, and if the public peace is likely to be endangered, it is a very great responsibility, let me tell the hon. Gentleman, for any person occupying the position I hold, should lie not have the moral courage to take measures for the preservation of order. Having said thus much, let me now assure the House that if any words of mine uttered in the most conciliatory spirit could allay the alarm which has during the last twenty-four hours prevailed in the public mind I would speak them from this or any other place. I have no desire that any public meeting should be prevented when held in the proper place and at the proper time for the most free discussion of any subject whatsoever, and of political subjects of course among others. All I can say is that, for the reasons which I have given, I think, and shall continue to think until contradicted by authority, that the parks are not the places in which such meetings as that of last night ought to be held. In answer to the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Osborne) and the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), I will now state the exact course which I deemed it to be my duty to take with reference to the meeting announced to be held in Hyde Park. The notice which was issued by my authority does not, I believe, contain a single word to which any peace-loving subject of the Crown could well object. It states that the Parks are open for the recreation of the public, and that therefore meetings like that which was announced ought not to be permitted to be held there. That notice was communicated the moment it was printed to the promoters, or to the gentlemen who were supposed to be the promoters, of the meeting, and I hoped that these gentlemen would, under such circumstances, have been cautious before they persevered in their object, and that they would have refrained from holding such a meeting. They, however, came to a contrary decision and I do not regard myself as responsible for anything which resulted from that decision. I have, however, seen letters which have been written by others, and which throw, I think, upon the writers a very grave responsibility indeed. As to the instructions which I gave, I may state 1396 that they were as follows:—A notice was issued to the effect that if the meeting did take place the police should temperately and forbearingly warn those by whom it was held against doing anything contrary to the notice. The police were also instructed, unquestionably, if anything were done contrary to the notice to stop the meeting, but not to have recourse to force until it was absolutely necessary. Instructions were further given to keep the military in their barracks, but to call them out in case of necessity — but in case of necessity only. I have seen it stated in the papers that the military force were called out before any riotous proceedings took place. That is simply not true. The military authorities were not called upon, as I firmly believe, one minute too soon. I also gave instructions, or rather recommended, that the Park gates should be closed at five o'clock, thinking and believing, as I think and believe still, that was the proper and the wisest course to pursue in order to prevent any riot. The best proof that that was a wise course is, that those by whom the meeting was convened, and who went to address the people in Hyde Park, having demanded admittance at the Marble Arch, and having so far tested their right, as they called it, to be allowed to enter the Park, went away on being refused admission, and took, I am happy to believe, no part in the proceedings which subsequently occurred. Other persons laboured under the impression that if admittance to the Park was denied them they ought to go quietly home, and they marched back instead of trying to effect an entrance by force. But when you bring a large number of men together—and those who broke into the Park are the persons to whom such notices as this are more particularly addressed—I say that when many thousands of persons are thus called together, it is not always in the power of force or of moral influence to prevent them from breaking the law. Well, that was the state of things up to yesterday evening. I ought to say, in justice to the military force which was called out, that I have heard from all quarters that they exercised the greatest forbearance, and that they had recourse to no measures which could be fairly characterized as measures of severity or coercion. I am bound also in justice to the police to say that I believe they took, from all I can hear, no measures of undue severity, and that their conduct, under trying circumstances, was 1397 both temperate and forbearing. They simply took such steps as they were bound to take when they found that the railings of the Park were being pulled down. I think it is but fair to add with respect to those who were assembled to attend the meeting—I do not wish to apply the remark to all, because some acted in a very different spirit—that the great mass were orderly and good tempered. It is of course extremely painful to find that the precautions which we deemed it to be our duty to take did not prevent the great disturbance which occurred yesterday evening. They put a stop to disturbance in some places, but they were not successful in preventing the pulling down of the rails and the breaking into the Park; and I doubt whether these things could have been avoided by any other measures of precaution which we could have adopted. It may be doubtful whether the locking of the gates was the best course which could have been pursued. I thought, however, upon the whole, and I still think, that it was the most prudent step to take; and I am confident the House, not judging merely by the event, will feel that, if tens of thousands of persons had been allowed to go into the Park, it would not have been possible to prevent the meeting, or, perhaps, to take any other measures which would have insured the preservation of the peace. ["Oh!"] That is my opinion. At all events, it could not have been done without great risk, great pressure, great excitement. I am therefore, upon the whole, still inclined to be of opinion that in ordering the gates of the Park to be locked we took a wise course. ["No, no!"] I see that some hon. Gentlemen differ from me in that view, but I can only say that it has been successfully done in other cases, and I must still express it to be my opinion that that was the best precautionary measure which we could adopt. Whether it was so or not, nobody can, at all events, deny that it was not by the police that the disturbance was begun. It did not begin even with the leaders of the meeting. It had its origin with persons who came to the Park with very different purposes from that of free and open discussion; and the responsibility of what has occurred rests with others, and not with me. I am sorry to have to add that some disturbances have taken place again this afternoon in the Park. The measures we have taken to prevent them are still as moderate as I believe the circumstances of 1398 the case will admit. And now I hope I may appeal to the right-minded people of this metropolis—I hope I may appeal to all those who really wish to have free discussion, and desire at the same time that the peace of the metropolis shall be preserved, that they will not give a grudging support to the Government to whose hands the preservation of that peace is intrusted. I have nothing further to say, except to thank the House for the kind manner in which they have listened to this explanation, from which I hope it will be perceived that there is really no ground of complaint against the Government for the manner in which they have discharged a most painful but a most imperative duty.
§ MR. OLIPHANT
said, it was impossible to have listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down without being assured that he was deeply impressed with the responsibility of his position, and that he had used the power vested in him as one of the Executive officers of the Government to the best of his ability and discretion. But he hoped the House would excuse him for a few minutes while he endeavoured to show that the measures which the right hon. Gentleman had taken were not judiciously chosen. Without raising the question of the right of the people to meet in the Park—with regard to which, however, he might add that he entirely differed from the right hon. Gentleman—but, assuming even that the people had no right to the Park, he was at a loss to know how the right hon. Gentleman could justify the utter failure of all the measures which he had taken to prevent the meeting and to preserve the Park. The people had been informed that a public meeting would not be permitted, but he himself was in the Park several hours unmolested. The Park was to have been closed, but the Park was full of people. There was to have been no riot, but there was disturbance for several hours. In fact, he did not see to what single point the right hon. Gentleman could appeal to justify the steps which he had taken for preventing a breach of the peace and for preserving the Park. On the contrary, he believed if the right hon. Gentleman and Sir Richard Mayne had gone to White-chapel and asked the "roughs" the best way to get up a riot, the answer would have been, "Shut the Park gates, place the police in front of them; we will then pull down the railings, and have a riot; and, if you want to give the affair an air 1399 of importance, you can have in some military, provided they are not allowed to do anything." He (Mr. Oliphant) did not, in fact, see how the Home Secretary could take credit for what he had done; nor, indeed, on the contrary, could he see how the right hon. Gentleman could escape serious blame. If it was said that it was impossible to keep the people out of the Park after the railings had been pulled down, his answer would be that the Executive ought not to have attempted an impossibility and brought themselves into ridicule. As it was, the police were laughed at throughout London. The poor fellows no doubt did their best, and no one who was present could withhold his sympathy from them any more than he could from the people, both of whom were brought face to face with a sort of unlimited order to attack each other on any sort of pretext or excuse. After the palings had been pulled down and the exclusiveness of the Park had been invaded, the only prudent thing to be done was to withdraw the police. A protest had been made by the Government. The gates had been shut, and the authorities should have been content with that protest, as Mr. Beales and those with him had been with theirs. But the mob had taken the law into their own hands, and the only way to avoid a collision was to withdraw the police. ["Oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen who expressed their dissent could not deny that the object of calling out the police was to keep the peace, and that the effect of retaining the police on the spot was to cause a very great riot. He did not know that such was the object desired, but certainly that was the effect of the want of discretion on the part of the authorities in leaving the police in the Park when it was impossible for them to deal with the enormous mass of people who had collected there. The result of marching the military through the Park with an intention not to use them was simply to render them ridiculous. The effect of the whole proceeding had been to impair very seriously the authority of the Executive, to bring the police into contempt, and to lessen the prestige of the military. He was of opinion, however, that this little episode might afford a useful moral, if the Government looked on it as providentially sent to them as a warning that if they shut the gates against constitutional Reform the people would pull down the constitutional palings.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he did not think this discussion should close 1400 without particular attention being called to the letter to which the Secretary of State had already slightly alluded, which had been written by a Member of that House. The House should have the opportunity of expressing their opinion with respect to that letter, which appeared to have been written by one of its own Members with the view of inciting the people to a breach of the law. That letter was written by the hon. Member for Birmingham after the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the right hon. Baronet his predecessor in office on Thursday evening, to the effect that the meeting in Hyde Park had been prohibited, and when therefore the hon. Member was perfectly well aware of the forcible language he was using. It might be said he ought not to attack an absent Member, but the hon. Member was not only absent from his place in that House—he was absent from London. The language of the letter was not more remarkable than the care and caution which the writer showed for his own personal safety. It might be said of him as of another agitator—With the cold caution of his patriot spleen, Which pens no treason, but which seeks a screen, And keeps this maxim ever in the view, What's basely done should be done safely too.He (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) must protest against that letter. He regretted very much that when he put a question to the late Secretary for the Home Department some two or three weeks ago, as to the legality of the meeting in Trafalgar Square, the right hon. Gentleman said it would be legal, unless it were held for the purpose of petitioning Parliament. That answer he thought at the time was calculated to mislead the people, and he considered that the right hon. Gentleman would have acted with more candour if before leaving office he had expressed a strong opinion against the legality of such meetings, instead of leaving it to the new Secretary of State to put a atop to them. He hoped the House would feel that he was entirely justified in calling attention as he had done to the letter of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and which he considered had been most improperly written by a Member of the Legislature.
§ MR. LAYARD
said, he thought that justice to a large constituency composed principally of artizans deeply interested in the question under discussion, called on him 1401 to say a few words on their behalf. He did not intend to enter into the legal question raised by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, as the public right to hold meetings in the Parks was about to be tried before a Court of Law, and the House was not called upon to decide it. What he wished to call attention to was this—that the measures taken by the Government to impede the meeting last night were most injudicious and foolish. What was the history of the case? The working classes had recently been taunted in no measured terms with their indifference to Reform. It was said they took no interest in Reform, and their lukewarmness was the justification of right hon. Gentlemen now on the Treasury Bench for opposing the Bill Her Majesty's late Government had introduced. These taunts had touched the working classes very keenly, and they desired to show by some great public demonstrations that they did take an interest in the question of Reform and that they did approve the Bill brought in by the late Government. He did not say whether it was prudent or imprudent to make such a demonstration, but they had a perfect right to do this. They sought for some place where an expression of public opinion could be made; and they naturally thought that Hyde Park might be used for their demonstration. They had seen Hyde Park used for Volunteer reviews and other large gatherings; and as they had to pay their share for keeping up the Park, they thought themselves entitled to its use. It might be said that these meetings might have been held elsewhere, at Primrose Hill or in the Borough, or among their own kith and kin in the East End of the town? But their own kith and kin knew their opinions already, and the working men of the East End of the town desired to let the people at the West End of the town know what their opinions were. The people might have been right, or they might have been wrong in thinking they had a right to the Park. But he ventured to say that if the Home Secretary had met them in an open and fair way nothing of the kind that took place last night would have occurred. All riot might have been avoided. Two or three of the leaders might have been arrested, or the gates might have been closed for half an hour. There were a thousand subterfuges of law which would have enabled them to discuss the question of right. The authorities might have confined the meeting to one 1402 portion of the Park, and the people would at once have accepted that arrangement. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the meeting would have interfered with the riders and the drivers. But this meeting was to have been held at seven o'clock in the evening, when most of the riders and drivers had departed. Then the right hon. Gentleman assumed that there was to be a riot and disturbance, and it was on this point that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had condemned the proclamation. What right had the right hon. Gentleman to assume that the working classes would be guilty of a riot and disturbance? He wished to know by what right the Government presumed to prevent such meetings. No steps had been taken to interfere with vast meetings which had been held in London on other occasions. Were there not many hon. Members present who saw the entrance of the Princess of Wales into London? Did not his hon. Colleague and himself, as Members for the borough of Southwark, enjoy special opportunities of seeing the whole of the vast multitude that assembled to welcome the arrival of Her Royal Highness? [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh, but he repeated that his Colleague and himself, in virtue of the position they held, had a better opportunity of knowing what then occurred than had any other Members of that House. He had also been present when Garibaldi was welcomed by the people of London. No riot took place on those occasions. The result of his experience was that if they trusted to the good feelings of the working men no riot would occur. He ventured to say that, had the Government appealed yesterday to the working men to preserve order, no disturbance would have taken place. For any riot or disturbance that did take place yesterday he would venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his Colleagues were entirely and exclusively responsible. It had been said that a large part of the crowd consisted of roughs and pickpockets, but did ever any large assembly of people take place in London without such persons being present? Why they had them at the opening of Parliament. The Government gave a direct invitation to those classes to visit the scene of action when they announced their intention of pursuing a course which could only lead to commotion and disorder. The right hon. Gentleman fully admitted that the disturbance was not raised by the quiet and orderly people who got up the demonstra- 1403 tion, but by roughs and pickpockets who were induced to attend the meeting in consequence of the steps taken by the Government. Had the Government reserved their right to prevent such meetings by issuing a protest against the demonstration, and had they then permitted the working men to enter the Park, no riot or disturbance whatever would have resulted from the assemblage. There would have been a quiet demonstration, a few foolish speeches would have been made, and then the people would have gone home. The results of the course taken by the Government had been most unhappy. Throughout the length and breadth of the land—and no man in the House could deplore the fact more than he did himself — it would be believed that physical force had been used to prevent the working men from expressing their feelings and opinions upon the subject of Reform. ["Oh, oh!"] That belief might be well or ill founded. He did not say for one moment that it was well founded, but nothing would prevent its spreading throughout the length and breadth of the land. When working men who had met by advertisement were confronted by soldiers and by large bodies of police, people might be justified in supposing that those who had so assembled were to be ridden down, if not slaughtered by the sabre or the bullet. If no use was to be made of the military, why were they called out? He recollected that some years ago an hon. Member, who then sat among Gentlemen opposite, had said that the only way to control a London mob was to train a cannon upon them. ["Oh, oh!" and "Name, name!"] The hon. Gentleman who made use of that expression was Mr. Dundas. Such, however, was the feeling of the country at the time, that in three or four days afterwards the hon. Member came down to the House and humbly apologized for having made use of the expression. He repeated that he very much regretted the course taken with regard to last night's meeting by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, as he believed that it would lead to consequences that everybody must deeply deplore.
said, he would like to know whether he was in the parish vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square, or in the House of Commons, and whether the Members of the British House of Commons, who represented other than metropolitan districts, were to be dictated to, as to the course they should adopt in reference to 1404 certain questions, by meetings held in Trafalgar Square. The hon. Gentleman who had just spoken said, that an effort had been made to prevent the working men from being heard, and that they therefore wished to assemble in Hyde Park in order to let the people of the West End of the town know what they thought on the subject of Reform. Why, what was the meaning of this? Simply to endeavour to intimidate the Members of this House, most of whom lived at the West End. But hon. Members were sent to the House of Commons to act on behalf of the people of England as a whole, and therefore he must protest against meetings being held for the purpose of intimidating country Members, and forcing them to act against their better judgment. As Members of that House, they had to see that the laws were properly respected, and, instead of stimulating the people to further excitement, by using language of the character made use of by the hon. Gentleman, it was their duty to impress upon all classes the necessity of preserving the peace. He could tell the hon. Member that it was to people like him, and the speeches they made, that the feeling that had been exhibited yesterday was owing. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the proposed meeting in Hyde Park, and said that if the people had been let alone there might have been two or three foolish speeches, and then the meeting would have been over. Was that the way the hon. Gentleman spoke to the people of Southwark? Did he tell them there that these exaggerated speeches on Reform were foolish? He trusted that the House would hear no more such speeches as those of the hon. Member who had last spoken, and of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. He (Major Jervis) did not say whether locking the Park gates and placing a body of police at the Marble Arch was right or wrong. That was a question for the authorities. But he must protest against the proposition laid down by those hon. Members, that when the working men adjourned the meeting to Trafalgar Square, the police were bound to retire before the mob, and to give up the Park to pillage. The police were bound to do their duty to the last moment, in order to protect the public property, and he could only express his regret that, in manfully discharging their obligations, they had suffered so severely as they had done.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
I wish to say 1405 a few words in reference to the remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Baillie Cochrane). That hon. Member complains that I abstained from declaring that the meetings advertised to be held in London for the purpose of expressing the opinions of the working men upon the subject of Reform were illegal and ought to be put down. Sir, when the meeting was about to be held in Trafalgar Square I stated that, as far as I was informed, it was a legal meeting; that any meeting at which language was held calculated to provoke a breach of the peace was an illegal meeting; but that a meeting held for the purpose of discussing Parliamentary Reform was not in itself illegal. I gave directions to the police in regard to that meeting, and I beg to inform the hon. Member, in reply to his question, as to whether means had been taken to preserve the peace, that I gave directions to the Commissioner of Police that he was not to interfere with the meeting as long as it was legally and peaceably conducted, but that he was to take means to prevent any illegal assemblage of persons afterwards for the purpose of breaking windows and of expressing political animosity against individuals. In order that the instructions under which the police were to act should be made known to the persons organizing the meeting, Sir Richard Mayne, by my instructions, sent the following letter to Mr. Edmond Beales, whom I regarded as representing those engaged in getting up the proposed demonstration:—Metropolitan Police Office, July 2, 1866. The Commissioner of Police of the metropolis has to acquaint the President or Chairman of the public meeting to be held this evening in Trafalgar Square that the police have instructions not to prevent or in any way interfere with the holding of the meeting in a peaceable and quiet manner; but should bodies of persons proceed together about the streets in such a manner as by their numbers, noise, demeanour, or language is calculated to cause a breach of the peace, or excite terror or alarm in the minds of Her Majesty's subjects, it will become the duty of the police to prevent, and, if necessary, put a stop to such proceedings, and apprehend persons encouraging those engaged in them, and others who continue to act with them. RICHARD MAYNE, The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.The police acted in accordance with those instructions, and prevented any injury being done to property. The morning after the meeting was held the following letter was received by Sir Richard Mayne from Mr. Edmond Beales. I read it because it 1406 shows that courteous treatment is met in the same spirit in which it is offered—4, Stone Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, July 3. Mr. Edmond Beales presents his compliments to Sir Richard Mayne, and begs to thank him in all sincerity for his letter relative to the meeting last evening in Trafalgar Square, and the police arrangements made with regard to it. The letter was received with much good feeling, and, in fact, with much applause generally on the part of the very large multitude assembled, and they evinced every desire to adhere to the course prescribed in it—a course also strongly urged by the speakers. If there was any procession or clamour in the streets after the proceedings of the meeting were terminated, they could only have been the work of a few boys, as the great bulk of those assembled dispersed quietly to their several homes. It will be, as it has been, Mr. Beales' constant effort to prevent any constitutional exhibition of popular opinion from being perverted into anything approaching to a breach of the peace or to public disorder.About that time Sir Richard Mayne informed me that it was reported that it was intended to hold a meeting in Hyde Park. I told him that, in accordance with the course that had been adopted for some years past by the Government, the meeting in Hyde Park would not be permitted, and that I wished that an intimation to that effect should be made to those who were engaged in organizing the proposed meeting. I must, therefore, take upon myself a full share of responsibility for having acted on the opinion that it is inexpedient that meetings of a political character should be held in Hyde Park, and that it is utterly incompatible with the purpose for which the Parks are thrown open that large assemblages of people for making speeches or passing resolutions on political or religious matters should be permitted to take place in them. I understand that a communication to the effect that the meeting would not be permitted to be held in Hyde Park was addressed by order of the present Government to Mr. Beales, and I very much regret that that gentleman did not act upon that notice and prevent the meeting taking place. At the same time, what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) has said with regard to the conduct of the persons engaged in those proceedings is, I believe, perfectly correct. I, myself, walked up from the House yesterday evening about seven o'clock in company with another hon. Member through the Green Park, and on getting near Hyde Park Corner we saw there a large procession with flags. It was some time before we could get out of the Green Park, and by the time we got into Grosvenor Place 1407 the procession, accompanied by its flags, was fully half way down Grosvenor Place, those connected with it having been refused admittance at the gates of the Park, and having left after doing what they thought sufficient to enable them to test the legality of the refusal. I have had no opportunity of forming any opinion upon the manner in which the police acted in this instance; but, from a long knowledge of the manner in which they perform their duties, I have no doubt that they acted with the firmness and moderation which generally characterize them. Nor am I prepared to express any opinion on the expediency of closing the Park gates. It would be unjust, I think, to form any opinion adverse to the Government by judging merely from what has taken place, and without placing oneself in the difficult and responsible position in which the right hon. Gentleman found himself. The right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly adopted those measures which he thought would be most likely to attain the objects which he very properly had in view. At the same time, I cannot but view with feelings of the deepest regret and humiliation the scenes of lawless violence which occurred in the Park last evening, and which resulted not only in the destruction of the greater part of the iron railings round the Park, but in the partial demolition of those beautiful borders of flowers from which the public have derived so much pleasure, I was really perfectly astonished to hear the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) state that the Parks were exclusively devoted to the enjoyment of one class of the community. I am frequently in the Parks—not merely in one of them—and there can be scarcely anything more gratifying than to see the manner in which all classes alike avail themselves of the advantages conferred upon the public by Hyde Park, St. James' Park, and the Green Park. Any hon. Member who desires to convince himself that this is the case has only to walk across the Green Park on a Sunday afternoon, or to go into St. James' Park, when he will find numbers of children from the streets and alleys in Westminster lying on the grass or playing about, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. These Parks are to the people sources of recreation and great enjoyment; but these objects are incompatible with employing them for the assemblage of large meetings of a political or any other nature. I deeply regret the occurrences of last evening, but I hope 1408 the House will support whatever Government may be in power in the adoption of judicious measures which will tend to prevent their recurrence. Not having witnessed what took place, and consequently not being aware of all the circumstances, I shall say nothing about the calling out of the military; but the good sense of the people generally will, I trust, induce the public to unite with the Government for the preservation of order and the prevention of such scenes as have unhappily occurred on this occasion.
§ MR. COWPER
said, he would only detain the House a few minutes. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had taken an unusual course in the strictures he had passed on the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Walpole), and his assertion that of late some exclusive appropriation had been made in the Parks for the benefit of one class, was one that he could not allow to pass without an emphatic contradiction. He could not conceive what confusion of ideas on the part of the hon. Gentleman could have led him to make such a statement. He supposed he must refer to the circumstance that a particular portion of the Park was set aside for the purposes of riding. But there was no exclusiveness in this, any more than in setting aside another portion of it for carriages. All classes were able to cross St. James' Park in cabs, and all had equal access to the ride. The hon. Gentleman had also fallen into the error of forgetting that the Parks were the property of Her Majesty. The common phrase the "People's Park" did not imply that the Park was the property of the people, but only that the people were allowed to avail themselves of its benefits for the purposes of recreation and amusement. As a proof, too, that the advantages conferred by the Parks were appreciated by the people, he must say that it afforded him great pleasure to mention the fact that the crowd who on the previous evening had torn down the railings, even in the excitement of the moment and their anxiety to baffle the police, did not forget the flowers whose beauty had afforded them so much pleasure, but carefully avoided interfering with the beds. So far from the Government having confined the benefits of the Parks to the upper classes, it was for the amusement and recreation of the lower classes that the Government had striven, and striven, too, with a care and anxiety which had been bestowed upon no other branch 1409 of Her Majesty's subjects. He perfectly agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as to the advisability of not holding large meetings in Hyde Park. Such meetings had been for some years forbidden, because, if they were once permitted, the Park would become the ordinary arena for the holding of meetings, and the discussion of various subjects, not only on every working day, but also on Sundays. There was not a temperance society that would not be wanting to expound its principles in Hyde Park, and the managers of school feasts would fix upon the Parks as appropriate spots for eating buns and drinking ginger-beer. Now this would materially interfere with the ordinary enjoyment and recreation of the public, and would prevent the attainment of the objects to the service of which the Parks were specially appropriated. For two years he had not allowed interference with religious and social discussions in the Parks, but the Garibaldi riots, and other inconveniences that arose from these discussions, proved the necessity of enforcing the regulation against all meetings whatever. At the same time, he was afraid that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary hardly appreciated the peculiar circumstances of the present day, and that there are no open spaces in London now, as there were once, where large public meetings could take place. This was not a desirable state of things. He held it to be an essential element in the success of constitutional principles in this country that large masses of the people should be able to meet together when they wished to discuss questions of public importance. In the year 1848, the people were able to hold such meetings on Kennington Common, but since that date the common had been enclosed. There were no buildings, too, in London, sufficiently large for the purpose of such gatherings. Exeter Hall, for instance, would accommodate but 3,000 people; and even Mr. Spurgeon's Tabernacle would not accommodate, he believed, more than 7,000. But there was still another resource open. When he occupied the position of the First Commissioner of Works, the City of London Working Men's Garibaldi Committee desired to hold a large meeting to condemn certain steps which they believed had been taken to secure Garibaldi's withdrawal from this country. Although he did not sympathize with the feelings by which the committee were actuated, he thought it very desirable that an opportunity should 1410 be afforded for the expression of public opinion. He therefore informed the committee of the rule under which meetings of this description were forbidden to be held in Hyde Park, but he informed them also that Primrose Hill was at their disposal instead, and that a sufficient number of police would be directed to attend, in order to see that the proceedings were not disturbed. It had been said, on the present occasion, that Primrose Hill would not do as well as Hyde Park, because it was so much out of the way. That he believed to be a mistake, because the information which most people were likely to receive about the meeting would be gathered not from a personal visit but from a perusal of the newspapers. The public inconvenience and the stoppage of the traffic which would result from the use of Hyde Park could not be urged against the employment of Primrose Hill, and, if he might venture upon a suggestion, it would be that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary should in case of any future applications for the purpose of holding such large meetings, inform the applicants that they could meet in as large numbers as they liked on Primrose Hill.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
Sir, I have no intention of taking up much of the time of the House, but this is no ordinary occasion, and it seems to me that noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite are by no means aware of the extreme seriousness of it, and of the serious consequences to which it may lead if some steps be not taken, of which at present there appears no promise. I am not going to enter into the question of the right of the people to meet in Hyde Park. We know that Her Majesty's Government have the opinion of eminent lawyers to the contrary. We know that they believe they have the right to exclude the people. But lawyers are not unanimous on the subject; there are other distinguished lawyers, who, on legal and high constitutional grounds, have contended that the people have a right to meet there. But I do not desire to lay any stress on this circumstance. I maintain that if the people have not that right now, they ought to have it. I maintain further, that if, for reasons unintelligible to me, it was thought necessary for the maintenance of any supposed or nominal right that the people should ask permission to hold a meeting there, that permission ought to have been granted. And it ought ten thousand times more to have been 1411 granted to them under such circumstances as these, when they believed, erroneously or not, that they had the right; for surely this circumstance, when the people were already in an excited state of mind on another subject, ought to have warned right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the consequences would be such as have actually occurred, and which I believe the people deplore equally with himself. But I maintain that the public ought to have the use of the Park for this purpose, for if not, what other place is there that can suit them? In what other place can they meet where there would be less interruption to recreation? Is there likely to be less interruption to traffic, or to other pursuits or persons, in Trafalgar Square than in Hyde Park? Does a public meeting, if it were held once a month—in the evening, too—cause a thousandth part of the interruption that an ordinary review or meeting of Volunteers in the Park does? If such reasons as these are to exclude the public from meeting in the Parks, which assuredly must be held to belong to the public, for they have been ceded by the Crown to the public for a consideration—like other Crown lands—if these reasons are to prevail to exclude the people, there is no place for which equally strong reasons might not be given for their exclusion. Perhaps this is what hon. Gentlemen opposite wish. I give full credit, indeed, to the assurance which the Home Secretary has given us, that he has no desire to prevent political meetings. I believe in the perfect sincerity of what he said; but I cannot say that it has altogether reassured me. He said he had no objection to open air meetings at proper hours and in the proper places; but he did not tell us what the proper times or the proper places were in his opinion, and the newspaper scribes of the Government are already declaring that no open air meeting ought to be tolerated in the metropolis. I advise them to try that. I promise them that they will have to encounter an opposition of a very different kind, and from different persons, to any they have yet encountered. Noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may be congratulated on having done a job of work last night which will require wiser men than they are, many years to efface the consequences of. It has been the anxious wish of all those who understand their age, and are lovers of their country, that the necessary changes in the institutions of the country should be 1412 effected with the least possible, and if possible without any, alienation and ill blood between the hitherto governing classes and the mass of the people. Her Majesty's present advisers seem resolved, so far as it depends upon them, that this anxious desire should be frustrated. We know that there is a kind of people who can do more mischief in an hour than can be repaired in a lifetime. I am afraid that the Members of the present Government are animated by the noble ambition of inscribing their names on the illustrious list of those persons.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I take it for granted, Sir, that the speech we have just heard was one of those intended to be delivered in Hyde Park, and if I may judge from it as a sample, we can gather a very good idea of the rhetoric which will prevail at those periodical meetings we are promised. But I must say that on the part of Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House I entirely repudiate, and even with some indignation, the imputations, the feelings, the motives, the views, the policy which the hon. Gentleman has imputed to us without the slightest foundation. No opinions with regard to the occurrences under discussion, which of course all of us must deeply and equally regret, have been expressed on this side of the House which have not been equally expressed by the highest authorities on the other side. However much we may deplore what has occurred—however easy it may be after the event to be as profoundly sage as some of those who have favoured us with their opinions—I think, on the whole, that every prudent man would have taken a course precisely as that which we pursued, and which our predecessors in office have, in a generous and gentlemanlike manner, acknowledged they would themselves have taken—[Mr. GLADSTONE was understood to signify dissent]—with the exception, then, of the right hon. Gentleman, my predecessor, whom I understand to express his dissent. [Mr. GLADSTONE: The observations did not come from me.] Then I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I mistook the quarter from which the dissent came. And surely, if we calmly consider what has occurred, I think there cannot be two opinions, except among those Gentlemen who intend to deliver speeches in Hyde Park, that meetings for political or religious purposes ought not to be encouraged in 1413 that locality. I think the reasons that have been given, both by my right hon. Friend on this side of the House and by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, are quite unanswerable. But, perhaps, I may be permitted to remind the House, in addition to what has already been said, that in all those public Parks which during the last few years have been happily established in our great towns, it is a standing rule that no public meeting should-be held in them for any political or religious discussion. Thus the common sense for which the English people are distinguished has brought them to the same conclusion that the practical men have adopted who are responsible for these matters in the metropolis. I should not have risen, Sir, if it had not been for the extraordinary and unjustifiable tone of the hon. Member for Westminster, who imputed motives to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House for which he had not the shadow of a foundation. But, as I have risen, I cannot help making a remark respecting the view — apparently wholly groundless—taken in the speech of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, who introduced this discussion. The whole speech of the hon. Gentleman went upon this assumption—that there was a false suggestion in the notification that had been published by the Government—namely, that this meeting in Hyde Park, if it took place, would tend to riot and disturbance. Now, I maintain that there was no false suggestion. In that notification it was not at all assumed, nor was it believed by those who drew it up, that riot or disturbance would be occasioned by those who promoted the meeting, or by the working classes generally who attended it. Our opinion was quite the reverse; we had confidence in the conduct of the individuals who had undertaken the management of the meeting, because from their previous behaviour we saw that they were men of sense, who would act upon any fair representations, and who, I think, conducted themselves under the circumstances with propriety. I willingly make a declaration which I feel it to be my duty to make. As far as regards the working classes, from all that I have heard, from all we know of them, it never for a moment crossed the mind of the Government that it would be the real working classes, who were holding this meeting, that would be authors of riot or disturbance. What we said was that a 1414 meeting of this kind would tend possibly and probably to riot—and has it not? They may be going on even at this moment. I live close to the spot where these disturbances have occurred, and I do not know this night if I shall get home safely, if, indeed, by this time, I still have a home to go to. Having, then, had a good opportunity of observing the turbulent among the people who form these meetings, I am bound to say that they are not of the working classes, and that they are very different from the sensible and well-meaning subjects of Her Majesty whom they taint. But the tendency of those meetings—though very honest and honourable gentlemen may be the promoters of them, and though they may be attended by many sensible and loyal subjects of Her Majesty—is to give an occasion for all the scum of a great city to take advantage of the circumstance, and to conduct themselves in the manner which has unfortunately taken place. I repudiate, then, the views imputed to us by the hon. Member for Westminster, as to our being opposed to public meetings of the working classes on subjects in which they take an interest. On the contrary, I believe public meetings, properly held, at the proper time and in the proper place, as my right hon. Friend says, to be most desirable. I regard them, under such circumstances, as one of the great political safety-valves to which we should trust. So far from discouraging them I would allow of no impediment to public meetings of the working classes at the right time and place on political subjects, confident as I am that it is to the advantage of society that they should take place. But I am confident that unless they are held, as my right hon. Friend says, at the proper time and place, they give the opportunity for riot, tumult, and disturbance, and what has occurred proves the soundness of my view. I make these few observations that our feelings on the subject may not be mistaken, and to free ourselves from the interpretation that has, without the slightest justification, been placed upon the conduct of Her Majesty's Government by the Member for Westminster.
said, he wished to put a further question to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary to which he hoped to receive an answer that would be satisfactory to the House. Some companies of the Guards had been called 1415 out, as he (Mr. Otway) thought very unwisely; for there was nothing more likely to create a disturbance than a display of military force; and it was stated in the Daily News that the Guards, after entering the Park, were ordered to load. Now he wished to know if there was any foundation for such a report. In his opinion, if a patrol had circulated about Park Lane, the grouping of the people would have been prevented, and the iron railings would not have been destroyed. He believed that the course which had been taken by the right hon. Gentleman was of all others the most calculated to provoke a breach of the peace.
§ MR. WALPOLE
I believe there is no foundation whatever for the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers. Although it is not competent for me again to address the House on this question, I may perhaps be allowed the opportunity of further stating that there was no demonstration of the military until the railings of the Park were pulled down. I felt it necessary to make this observation in order to correct an unintentional misstatement of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had raised an entirely new issue. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out the importance of public meetings, the constitutional character of public meetings, and the necessity of maintaining that constitutional right, but he went on to say that there would be sufficient justification for prohibiting a public meeting if an apprehension was entertained of a breach of the peace. Now it was incident to all public meetings that there might be a breach of the peace; so that the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman would go to the root of the right for which he contended. The question raised by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets was whether there was a false suggestion in the proclamation which had been issued, and he hoped the question would be raised by the hon. Member for Westminster, or some other influential Member, as to the restrictions within which the public were entitled to enjoy the Parks. If politics and religion were to be excluded from consideration in the Parks, such exclusion ought to have been stated in the proclamation. He had been informed that the Government had adopted the course of sending policemen in plain 1416 clothes as spies to the meetings of the Reform League, and that this un-constitutional proceeding had given great offence to the members of that society. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to state that there was no ground for the rumour to which he referred. There was a remarkable coincidence between what had just taken place and certain proceedings near Downpatrick, where a meeting of Orangemen had been called to celebrate the 12th July, and where the same false pretence had been used to put down that meeting—namely, that a breach of the peace was apprehended.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that although Her Majesty had six times in speeches from the Throne recommended to Parliament the consideration of the question of Parliamentary Reform, there still remained out of a population of about 30,000,000, no fewer than 5,000,000 of adults who had not the power to vote for the election of Members of Parliament. It was a lamentable fact that in a population so industrious and intelligent as ours, 5,000,000 of adult males were unrepresented; and it was also a serious and lamentable fact that the enemies of Reform were in possession of the Government. The late Reform Bill proposed to add only 400,000 electors to the present number. That moderate Bill was defeated, and the people were deprived of their just expectation. It had been a source of surprise to him that the country was satisfied with so small a measure. He admired their patience; but now they were roused and excited; they saw in power a party that had resisted every measure for the improvement of the country, and they would demand that consideration and justice to which they were entitled. It had been the policy of the great Conservative party to oppose every improvement offered to the country. They might continue to resist Reform for a time, but it could only be for a time. He had confidence in the people, and he would remind the House that no determined effort had ever been made by them to advance their rights and liberties unsuccessfully. So long as he had the honour of a seat in that House he should stand up for the just rights of the people.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.